Homicide Detective Superintendent Rod Wilde has confirmed that a man arrested by police after 4-year-old Cleo Smith was discovered "alive and well" inside a Carnarvon residence in Western Australia early on Wednesday was "known to police."
When questioned by reporters, Wilde remarked, "He is well-known, but I have to be very careful around him."
The missing 4-year-old was discovered inside a closed residence at Carnarvon just before 1 a.m. local time, ending a two-and-a-half week police hunt.
Cleo was alone inside the house when a man, 36, was apprehended nearby. He had no ties to Cleo's family, according to police.
After hearing about Cleo's rescue, all of the officers in the team were "overwhelmed," according to Wilde. "We all cried, without a doubt." It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Cleo was discovered in a bedroom at the property where she was being held, he said, and police were planning to file charges in the case later Wednesday.
One of the four policemen who rescued Cleo, Detective Senior Sergeant Cameron Blayne of the Homicide Squad, said his initial emotion was amazement, "quickly followed by elation."
"It was incredible to see her sitting there in that position."
He described Cleo as "it was an honour." He said it was "a little energiser bunny" to be able to witness the reunion of Cleo and her family in the hospital immediately after she was discovered.
"I don't know how she has so much energy. I wish I did." I'm about to retire for the night. "She's a lovely, energetic young lady."
Cleo was "very trusting and very open" with all of the cops, he claimed.
Cleo's biological father, Daniel Staines, stated in response to the miraculous news of her rescue.
Cleo lives with her mother, Ellie Smith, and stepfather, Jake Gliddon because her parents are divorced.
"We are all absolutely overjoyed at the good news this morning and so happy that Cleo has been reunited with her mother and father," Staines told the West Australian newspaper.
"Thank you to everyone who assisted in the search for her and her return, especially the WA Police, SES, and the Carnarvon community."
On Wednesday, Ellie Smith, Cleo's mother, posted on Instagram about the family's reunion with the tiny child.
"Our family is complete once more," she wrote.
According to WA Officers Commissioner Chris Dawson, a critical lead about a car led police to Cleo's house.
"We followed every lead we could get our hands-on. He told radio station 6PR, "We had some important information, and I can say that the information about a car was essential."
"My name is Cleo," Cleo informed one of the cops who scooped her up when she was found alone in the locked residence.
The bodycam footage of Cleo Smith's midnight rescue will be "burned into his memory for life," according to Western Australia Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch.
"I saw detectives see Cleo in a room, and the look on their faces, and the care that was expressed right away, and the cuddling, and her looking almost directly at the camera saying, 'My name is Cleo,'" Blanch said on 6PR.
In the footage he had seen of Cleo following her rescue, Blanch stated she was "alive, well, and smiling."
Blanch said officers acted quickly after discovering a "needle in a haystack" on Tuesday night.
Premier Mark McGowan of Western Australia stated Police Commissioner Chris Dawson informed him of the successful rescue the night before.
"He sent me a photo of little Cleo sitting in a hospital bed, smiling, and it was wonderful news," McGowan added.
He expressed relief with the rest of the country that Cleo had been located.
McGowan stated, "It's a very exciting day."
According to McGowan, the investigation will serve as a model for law enforcement organizations across the country and beyond the world.
According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Cleo's rescue was a "moment of great joy."
"The fact that that nightmare has come to an end and our worst fears were not realised is just a huge relief," Morrison added.
"Thank God that Cleo is home and that she is safe."
Cleo's family, according to Dawson, had never given up hope. He described them as "They're strong people,"
"They have good support around them and we will continue to walk them through – this is a wonderful result today, but it will still be a tough journey for them."
The police have not ruled out further arrests.
An expert's perspective on the police hunt
Criminologist Associate Professor Xanthe Mallett told Today that police deserved praise for successfully concluding a lengthy inquiry.
"There was a dearth of technological assistance." "There were no CCTV cameras, no dashcam footage on people's cars, and it wasn't in suburbia," Mallett explained.
"The police are looking into a lot of people of interest." Anyone who is staying at the campsite and has family traveling with them. Anyone in the community has a relevant criminal past. In the beginning, there were a lot of leads to follow."
She claimed that bringing in a large task force early was the appropriate decision.
"They learnt some of the mistakes from other child abduction cases from here and abroad and determined not to allow that happen in Cleo's case," she claimed.
"There was a feeling that Cleo would be the next Madeleine McCann and William Tyrrell. We'd never know what had happened."
Mallett also condemned online trolls who had targeted Cleo's family following her disappearance, claiming that such pressure may "break a family apart."
"It puts them under pressure day in and day out with everyone looking at them," she said.
Throughout the inquiry, police stated that they had no reason to believe Cleo's family was involved in her disappearance.
The Cleo Smith case, according to Mallett, could throw a wrench in present law enforcement presumptions.
If Cleo had been kidnapped, she claimed it was "extraordinary" that she had been kept alive for so long.
She told 9News, "She's obviously been fed and given water and kept physically safe for the last 19 days,"
"This is not to mention any psychological trauma she may have suffered as a result of being separated from her family.
"If a child is taken, the likelihood of them being found safe and well diminishes over time and the first few hours are key to finding them," she said.
"This is really going to test all of the behavioural knowledge we have of these type of offenders."
Dr. Terry Goldsworthy, a criminologist, and former detective, believe the remote location may have aided police once the investigation shifted its focus.
"So it limited, in reality, the suspect pool for them once they determined it was looking like a kidnapping or a homicide potentially," Goldsworthy told Today.
He speculated that the raid's timing overnight could indicate that police were acting on new information.
"The circumstances of how (Cleo) got there will now be the focus of their investigation," Goldsworthy added.
"So they'll be trying to work back from the locating of her this morning, back to her disappearance 19 days ago and the role that person played and I guess the role any other person may have played in the last 19 days."
Investigators had an advantage, according to Goldsworthy, because of proactive policing.
The early announcement of an AU$1 million incentive, generally reserved for when all other options have been exhausted, assured a steady flow of tips and information.
Goldsworthy also applauded the police's media blitz for keeping the Cleo search front and center in the public's mind.
Paola Magni, a forensic biologist at Murdoch University, said it was "really important" to preserve the scene at the Carnarvon residence where Cleo Smith was discovered.
"Because the evidence is deteriorating." "They don't always stay as still as stone when it comes to evidence," Magni told Tracy Vo of 9News Perth.
"It's critical that nobody goes in and changes anything." We can find the evidence in certain circumstances, but we can't go back in time to see how long it's been there."
"understand the dynamic of what happened in all of these 18 days," Magni stated.